• Kyodo

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Kokoro Kageura and Sara Asahina continued Japan’s dominance at the world judo championships in Budapest on Saturday by winning the men’s and women’s heavyweight competitions, respectively.

Kageura broke a world championship drought for Japan in the men’s over 100-kilogram division dating back to 2003 by defeating Russian Tamerlan Bashaev in the final at Laszlo Papp Arena.

The 25-year-old fought his way out from an attempted pin in the dying moments to claim victory over Bashaev on points.

Kageura said winning the tournament, which Japan’s Olympic team members are skipping, was vital for his 2024 Paris Olympic bid.

“Even though I was in poor condition and felt as though my heart was about to burst, I was able to power through for the victory,” said Kageura, who sensationally ended French superstar Teddy Riner’s decade-long undefeated streak at last year’s Paris Grand Slam.

Asahina reclaimed the women’s over-78-kg crown she previously won in 2018 after countrywoman Wakaba Tomita received her third penalty in their gold-medal match.

With her opponent visibly in pain after picking up an injury late in the bout, Asahina displayed her sportsmanship by carrying Tomita off the tatami.

“I was determined to become world champion, so I’m glad I was able to follow through. I’m now at ease,” Asahina said. “I think I was able to win by executing my techniques quickly instead of thinking too long about it.”

With only the mixed team competition to come at the June 6-13 championships, Japan sits atop the medal table with five gold, four silver and two bronze.

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